The Third & Fourth Noble Truths
At his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, Gautama Buddha spoke of The Four Noble Truths. These are his observations on the nature of human existence. Last month I presented the first two. The First Noble Truth is that all human life contains suffering. The Second Noble Truth is that the cause of this suffering is our ignorance due to our ego. This month I will present the Third and Fourth Noble Truths.
The First and Second Noble Truths outline the things that prevent us from attaining perfect happiness or nirvana. The Third and Fourth Noble Truths give us a “road map” to follow to attain this nirvana. The Third Noble Truth says that the sufferings of human life can be overcome and the way to overcome this suffering is The Eightfold Path. This is known in Buddhism as the cessation of suffering. Since we create this suffering for ourselves, we are the ones that must overcome this suffering. The question is how do we do this? First, we must recognize that we cause our suffering. We must stop blaming others or situations we cannot control for our suffering. However, Gautama Buddha recognized that people need guidelines to follow. These guidelines are the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path is not like the Ten Commandments or the edicts of other religions. There are no “musts” in Buddhism. However, there are similarities. If a person of another faith does not obey its’ basic rules then that person believes they will not have eternal salvation and may suffer eternal damnation. In Buddhism, if a person does not follow the Eightfold Path they simply will not attain enlightenment. Buddhism does not focus on eternal reward or punishment. Buddhism focuses on the overcoming of suffering. In other religions when a person commits a “sin”, they must express their sorrow to their God and vow not to commit this “sin” again. In Buddhism, there is no deity, so there is no one to whom to express this sorrow. When a Buddhist becomes aware that their actions are contrary to the Eightfold Path they recognize that to continue this course of action will prevent them from attaining enlightenment. Buddhism is about choice. We have the choice to overcome our suffering or to let it continue. The choice is ours. The Eightfold Path is:
This “Right” is not right as opposed to wrong. When we strip away the delusions caused by our ego we can recognize that which we need to attain nirvana. The Eightfold Path falls into three categories. The first two encompass wisdom and understanding. The next three involve ethical conduct. The final three represent mental discipline. In the coming months I will try to explain the Eightfold Path.